Research Data Management workshop in Serbia
Serbian trainers try out EIFL and OpenAIRE open science bootcamp training methods and materials in workshop for librarians and researchers

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Serbian researchers and librarians in the training venue.
Researchers and librarians from 19 Serbian research organisations took part in the RDM workshop.

In December 2023 a group of librarians and open science enthusiasts organized a workshop on Research Data Management (RDM) for Serbian researchers and librarians. They drew on the training methods and materials tested during EIFL and OpenAIRE open science train-the-trainer bootcamps held during 2023. Participants’ feedback was overwhelmingly positive, writes Milica Ševkušić, EIFL Open Access Programme Project Coordinator, who was one of the workshop trainers. 

In Serbia, there are many challenges facing researchers and librarians seeking training in research data management (RDM) and open science. There are (as yet) no formal training options, such as university curricula and professional development courses. The position of ‘data steward’ - a person tasked to support researchers with RDM processes and plans - does not exist in Serbian research organizations, and many of these organizations do not even have a librarian.

At the same time, there is a growing need for training on RDM, primarily due to funder data mandates requiring applicants for research funding to prepare a data management plan, ensuring data is FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Reusable) and enabling open access to data when possible. 

Efforts to establish RDM training in Serbia were made in 2019 and 2020 during a conference and a project focusing on RDM. These early efforts made an impact, raising awareness about the importance and need for open science and RDM skills. Since then, a group of Serbian librarians and researchers who managed to train themselves in RDM by taking part in online events hosted by various Horizon 2020 and Horizon Europe projects have been sharing their knowledge through webinars and online community meetings.

Workshop to try out RDM training methods and materials in Serbia

On 21–22 December 2023, members of this group of self-trained trainers organized a two-day workshop that was hosted by the University of Belgrade – Faculty of Mechanical Engineering and supported by the Serbia Accelerating Innovation and Entrepreneurship (SAIGE) Project. Research organizations were invited to appoint two researchers each to join the workshop. The final number of participants was 36, mostly researchers and librarians from 19 research organizations. The workshop aimed to - as far as possible - replicate training in some topics from five-day virtual open science bootcamps organized by EIFL and OpenAIRE in 2023, and to test training methods and materials used in the bootcamps. 

The virtual bootcamp format used by EIFL and OpenAIRE was easy to adapt to an in-person context. The training needed minimal computer equipment, and we were able to translate presentations from the EIFL and OpenAIRE bootcamps into Serbian, and also instructions for the exercises. 

The workshop programme featured presentations on open science from a researcher’s perspective, FAIR principles, RDM basics, data management plans, sensitive data, data publishing and trustworthy repositories, as well as group exercises, all accompanied with lively discussions. We also provided advice on how to conduct training on these topics for participants who might wish to provide training for their peers.

The feedback from the participants was overwhelmingly positive, and demonstrated keen interest in open science topics and also in the interactive and even experimental training formats. It was clear from responses to the feedback form, and from discussion during and after the workshop, that most of the participants only had basic knowledge of open science and RDM. Interest in data protection and sensitive data was especially high.

For several participants this was their first training on open science and RDM. Eager to deepen their knowledge, participants asked the trainers to repeat the whole workshop in future, but at a slower pace. They suggested that future workshops should dedicate more time to the practical exercises completed in break-outs, and specifically to reporting and discussion of the work done in groups. Participants enjoyed activities in which they were engaged, for example, quizzes (we used the free and open source tool Particify for this).

The trainers now have ambitious plans for the future

There were six workshop trainers - five librarians and one senior researcher. Five of the trainers had been involved in the EIFL and OpenAIRE open science train-the-trainer bootcamps held in 2023, either as trainees or trainers, or both, and this experience proved to be very useful. 

The bootcamps built trainers’ self-confidence, and provided training resources available on OpenPlato, the training platform established by OpenAIRE, under an open licence (CC BY -  Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International). 

The workshop was an interesting experience for all trainers, in different ways.  For most,  this was their first experience of designing and conducting a multi-day in-person workshop. Challenges, such as the different experience and knowledge levels among the trainers, and uneven previous knowledge and diverse disciplinary backgrounds of the participants, were successfully overcome through teamwork and active involvement of all the trainers throughout the workshop, and particularly during discussions. 

The workshop trainers now have ambitious plans for the future. These include new in-person events, an open science bootcamp in Serbia and developing a self-paced course on open science in Serbian that - we hope - will be hosted on OpenPlato. 

Do you want to try out the bootcamp materials?

For those who would like to try out the bootcamp resources that we used to prepare for the workshop, check out  - 

More about EIFL’s open science train-the-trainer bootcamps